Finding Opportunity in the Internet of Things Thinkstock

Finding Opportunity in the Internet of Things

With so many new buzzwords and technology, it can be hard to tell what's truly worth investing in and what's another passing fad. CompTIA's Seth Robinson explains how partners can capitalize on the IoT. 

Is the Internet of Things just another hype machine, or does it truly hold opportunities for the IT channel? CompTIA has been keeping an eye on this trend for the past few years, and its latest research on the topic goes into more depth than ever. This year, we examined both the channel viewpoint on IoT along with end-user activity to give us a comprehensive understanding of demand and supply.

From a channel perspective, the feeling towards IoT was never fraught with as much anxiety as the feeling towards cloud. IoT benefits from following after cloud and being built on cloud concepts, and channel firms approach the topic with confidence having navigated through cloud in the recent past. 39% of channel firms have a significantly more positive view of IoT than they did a year ago, and 36% have a slightly more positive view. Another 21% have not changed their opinion over the past 12 months, and this certainly includes firms that were bullish on IoT to begin with.

Of course, a positive outlook is mostly tied to revenue opportunities. There has been a big jump in IoT revenue—last year, only 8% of channel firms surveyed said they had already made money from IoT offerings; this year, that number is up to 23%. Large firms, with 50+ employees, are making the most headway. 36% of large businesses are already making money, compared to 15% of medium-sized firms (20-49 employees) and 15% of small companies (less than 20 employees).

What exactly do these offerings look like? One critical characteristic defines most of them—they do not span every area of the IoT ecosystem. The IoT ecosystem is complex, composed of hardware, software, rules, and services built on top of the foundational components. Outside of early consulting, which will necessarily touch on all four areas as strategy is defined, channel efforts tend to focus on one or two areas. This makes sense: initiatives of this magnitude are unlikely to come in a box, and end-users will have to utilize a range of vendors and partners to build their solutions.

Channel firms, then, can extend their current capabilities as they branch out into IoT. Their efforts might focus on hardware, such as infrastructure sales or break/fix. Those partners that have built development skills will find success on the software side, customizing client software or building new apps for visibility and control of connected devices. The services sector will continue to thrive, with analytics providing new insights from new data and managed services keeping the whole architecture running. Finally, security will keep growing as a priority, and partners that dive into the rules and regulations surrounding IoT will help keep their clients compliant in an ever-changing environment.

These opportunities are gaining traction thanks to burgeoning adoption on the end-user side. CompTIA’s study looks at this extensively, but suffice it to say that IoT business is starting to boom. Compared to several on-the-horizon technologies, IoT leads the pack in terms of awareness and perceived business impact, with companies expecting benefits ranging from cost savings to staff productivity to better data-driven decision making.

The Internet of Things started off with a few strikes against it. The name didn’t necessarily inspire confidence, the examples left something to be desired (zombie refrigerators, anyone?), and the previous trends of cloud and mobility had set a precedent that was tough to follow. But the potential benefits that can come from connecting our physical world to the Internet are truly remarkable, and channel firms have a great opportunity to extend their portfolio into this new space.

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